Barack Obama is a new African American

The President and I have something in common. We are both part of a growing ethnic group with the population of African Americans. African Americans with an immigrant background Barak Obama is of African ancestry although he is African American. He will do his best to stop the piracy because Somalia is contiguous to the country of his father’s birth, Kenya.

New York Times

April 14, 2009

Obama Signals More Active Response to Piracy Threat

WASHINGTON — President Obama vowed on Monday to “halt the rise of piracy” off the coast of Africa, foreshadowing a longer and potentially more treacherous struggle to come, a day after Navy snipers rescued an American merchant-ship captain held hostage on the Indian Ocean.

Mr. Obama, making his first live comments since the rescue Sunday, told an audience at the Transportation Department that he was “very proud” of the United States military and other agencies that responded to the hostage-taking. And he hailed the captain, Richard Phillips, for his “courage and leadership and selfless concern for his crew.”

Mr. Obama’s decision to permit Navy Seals to shoot the pirates holding Captain Phillips, if that became necessary to save his life, was the first known order by the new president authorizing deadly force in a specific situation. For Mr. Obama, the episode ended successfully with the precision takedown of three pirates with three bullets and the recovery of Captain Phillips generally unharmed.

But the operation on the waters off the Horn of Africa may presage a more complicated challenge for a president already trying to end a war in Iraq and win another in Afghanistan. Somali pirates have vowed to take revenge on Americans, and they have demonstrated in recent months their ability to seize ships from all sorts of countries with impunity. Even now, pirates in Somalia are holding more than 200 hostages from countries other than the United States.

“I want to be very clear that we are resolved to halt the rise of piracy in that region,” Mr. Obama said. “And to achieve that goal, we’re going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks. We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise. And we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes.”

The president’s remarks came as an American congressman reportedly escaped an attack in Somalia. Representative Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, visited Mogadishu to meet with Somali officials on piracy and other issues. As his plane departed, it was fired on by mortars, according to several reports. His office reported that the plane apparently was not hitand left Mogadishu safely.

At a press conference in Mogadishu before he departed, Mr. Payne called for broader efforts against piracy along Somalia’s lawless coast, and he defended the Navy action on Sunday that ended the five-day hostage standoff. “Illegal activities must be dealt with,” he said. “If you don’t deal with criminal behavior, then it will continue.”

Back in Washington, Mr. Payne’s Senate counterpart, Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on African affairs, said the United States government needs to develop a “comprehensive strategy” to help Somalia stabilize and fight piracy.

“For years, Somalia’s growing instability was neglected by the Bush administration and the international community,” Mr. Feingold said in a statement. “The new administration must not make the same mistake.”

On a more visceral level, the rescue of Captain Phillips led to jubilation

from his crew, relief from his family and vows of bitter revenge from Somali pirates.

The five-day standoff in the Indian Ocean ended at dusk on Sunday when Navy Seal snipers on the fantail of the destroyer U.S.S. Bainbridge killed three of the pirates holding Captain Phillips in an orange covered lifeboat while the fourth pirate was in American hands.

The pirates had first tried to seize the American-crewed container vessel, the Maersk Alabama, last Wednesday, and then retreated to the lifeboat with the captain as a hostage when the American crew retook control of the ship a few hours later. The Bainbridge, on patrol in the region, arrived to deal with the pirates while the container ship went on to port in Mombasa, Kenya.

Saying they felt lucky to be alive, the crew paid tribute on Monday to the courage of their captain, thanked the Navy for helping them and called on President Obama to do more to stamp out piracy near the Horn of Africa, where a dozen other ships with more than 200 crew members are being held for ransom now, according to the Malaysia-based International Maritime Bureau.

“We would like to implore President Obama to use all of his resources and increase the commitment to ending this Somali pirate scourge,” said Capt. Shane Murphy, the second-in-command of the Maersk Alabama, at a news conference in Mombasa. “It’s time for us to step in and put an end to this crisis.”

While the outcome of the standoff over Captain Phillips on the lifeboat was a triumph for America, officials in many countries plagued by pirates said that it was not likely to discourage them. In Somalia itself, other pirates reacted angrily to news of the rescue, and some said they would avenge the deaths of their colleagues by killing Americans in sea hijackings to come.

“Every country will be treated the way it treats us,” Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying in a telephone interview. “In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying.”

Pirates have also vowed violent revenge against French ships and sailors after French commandos stormed a private yacht seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Friday, an action inn which two pirates and one hostage died while four hostages were freed and three pirates captured. “The French and the Americans will regret starting this killing,” a pirate identified only as Hussein told Reuters by satellite telephone on Monday. “We do not kill, but take only ransom. We shall do something to anyone we see as French or American from now.”

The rescue of Captain Phillips required just three remarkable shots — one each by snipers firing from a distance, using night-vision scopes, according to Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of American naval forces in the region. Within minutes, rescuers slid down ropes from the Bainbridge, climbed aboard the lifeboat and found the three pirates dead. They then untied Captain Phillips, ending the contretemps at sea that had riveted much of the world’s attention.

The Navy Seals acted with President Obama’s authorization and in the belief that Captain Phillips was in imminent danger of being killed, the officials said. Two of the captors had poked their heads out of a rear hatch of the lifeboat, exposing themselves to clear shots, and the third could be seen through a window in the bow, pointing an automatic rifle at the captain, who was tied up inside the 18-foot lifeboat, they said.

Shortly after his rescue, Captain Phillips, 53, was taken aboard the Bainbridge, underwent a medical exam and was found to be in relatively good condition. He called home and was flown to the U.S.S. Boxer, an amphibious assault ship also off the Somali coast. After being debriefed about the episode, the captain was expected to return to the United States and his home in Underhill, Vt., perhaps by Tuesday.

“I share the country’s admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “His courage is a model for all Americans.”

Captain Phillips, who was said to be resting comfortably, spoke to officials of the Maersk Line, who quoted him as saying: “The real heroes are the Navy, the Seals, those who have brought me home.” He also spoke to his wife, Andrea, and two college-aged children in Underhill, where dozens of yellow ribbons fluttered on the white picket fence of his home and two small American flags jutted up from the lawn.

“This is truly a very happy Easter for the Phillips family,” said Alison McColl, a Maersk representative assigned to speak for the family, on Sunday. “They are all just so happy and relieved,” she said. “I think you can all imagine their joy and what a happy moment it was for them.”

On the family’s behalf, Ms. McColl thanked the nation and the people of Vermont for their prayers and support. “Obviously, this has been a long journey for the family,” she said. John Reinhart, president and chief executive of Maersk Line Ltd., praised the Navy and federal officials for their performance. “Everyone’s worked around the clock,” he said. “It’s magnificent to see the outcome.”

Aboard the Maersk Alabama, a 17,000-ton cargo ship, Captain Phillips’s crew erupted in cheers, waved American flags and fired off flares when they got word of the rescue. When four pirates attacked the ship on Wednesday, the crew escaped harm after the captain offered himself as a hostage. He told his crewmen to lock themselves in cabins, and then allowed himself to be taken at gunpoint into the lifeboat in which the pirates fled.

Over the ensuing days, according to official accounts of the episode, the pirates demanded $2 million in ransom for the captain’s life and made repeated threats to kill him as their motorized lifeboat moved about 30 miles off the Somali coast. It was closely watched by United States warships and helicopters in an increasingly tense standoff.

Talks to free the captain began Thursday, with the commander of the Bainbridge communicating with the pirates under instructions from F.B.I. hostage negotiators flown to the scene. The pirates threatened to kill Captain Phillips if attacked, and the result was tragicomic: the world’s most powerful navy vs. a lifeboat.

Admiral Gortney said in a briefing in Bahrain that despite ransom demands from the pirates, the United States had not discussed any ransom and had talked to the pirates only about the release of Captain Phillips and the pirates’ surrender.

The Defense Department twice sought Mr. Obama’s permission to use force to rescue Captain Phillips, most recently on Friday night, senior defense officials said. On Saturday morning, the president agreed, they said, if it appeared that the captain’s life was in imminent danger.

By Friday, with several warships within easy reach of the lifeboat, the negotiations had gone nowhere. Captain Phillips jumped into the sea, but was quickly recaptured. On Saturday, the pirates fired several shots at a small boat that had approached from the Bainbridge.

By the weekend, however, the pirates had begun to run out of food, water and fuel. That apparently provided the opening officials were hoping for. In briefings, senior officers who spoke anonymously because they had not been authorized to disclose information said that the pirates agreed to accept food and water. A small craft was used to deliver them and it apparently made several trips between the Bainbridge and the lifeboat.

On one trip, one of the four pirates — whose hand had been gashed during the capture of Captain Phillips — asked for medical treatment and, in effect surrendering, was taken in the small boat to the Bainbridge. Justice Department officials were studying options for his case, including criminal charges in the United States or turning him over to Kenya, where dozens of pirates have faced prosecution. Three pirates were left on board with Captain Phillips.

Meanwhile, members of the Navy Seals were flown in by fixed-wing aircraft. They parachuted into the sea with inflatable boats and were picked up by the Bainbridge. On Sunday, the pirates, their fuel gone, were drifting toward the Somali coast. They agreed to accept a tow from the Bainbridge, the senior officials said. At first, the towline was 200 feet long, but as darkness gathered and seas became rough, the towline was shortened to 100 feet, the officials said. It was unclear if this was done with the pirates’ knowledge.

At dusk, a single tracer bullet was seen fired from the lifeboat. The intent was unclear, but it ratcheted up the tension and Seal snipers at the stern rail of the Bainbridge fixed night-vision scopes to their high-powered rifles, getting ready for action.

What they saw was the head and shoulders of two of the pirates emerging from the rear hatch of the lifeboat. Through the window of the front hatch they saw the third pirate, pointing his AK-47 at the back of Captain Phillips, who was seen to be tied up.

That was it: the provocation that fulfilled the president’s order to act only if the captain’s life was in imminent danger, and the opportunity of having clear shots at each captor. The order was given. Senior defense officials, themselves marveling at the skill of the snipers, said each took a target and fired one shot.

“This was an incredible team effort,” Admiral Gortney said when it was over. “And I am extremely proud of the tireless efforts of all the men and women who made this rescue pos


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